Right as it appears Michigan has found its footing, in comes Sparty. The Wolverines were able to use last week to rest and heal while Michigan State used last week to blow a 25-point lead against Illinois.
Things look as bleak as ever in East Lansing as Mark Dantonio struggles to maintain a grip on his football team. A combination of off-the-field issues and injuries have decimated this Spartans’ roster. Lets take a look at who, exactly, will line up on Saturday.
It appears that Brian Lewerke will start for the Spartans after avoiding concussion protocol. Lewerke has failed to live up to expectations the past two years after a breakout sophomore season. He has a 55.7 completion percentage while averaging over 223 yards-a-game through the air. He has thrown 12 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions.
Lewerke has the ability to run but that leaves him open to taking another rough hit and possibly knocking him out of the game. He has gained almost 30 yards-a-game and one touchdown on the ground this year.
Notice the headline is singular. Connor Heyward, Weston Bridges and La’Darius Jefferson have entered the transfer portal, leaving the Spartans with little depth in the backfield.
Those backs left in part because they saw how talented freshman back, from U of D Jesuit in Detroit, Elijah Collins is. Collins leads the Spartans with 79 yards-per-game on the ground as well as five scores. He’s getting five yards-a-tote and will be a focus of the Spartan offense.
White and Wideouts
With Darrell Stewart Jr. assumed out, Cody White is Lewerke’s top target through the air. White has 37 catches and is averaging over 58 yards-a-game with two scores.
The next receiver in line, CJ Hayes, is questionable after missing the Illinois game. Behind him is Julian Barnett, a converted cornerback, who is only a freshman averaging 16 yards-a-game. Jalen Nailor is questionable with speed to burn if active.
Look for tight end transfer Matt Seybert to get some run as well.
First and foremost, the defense does not have Joe Bachie, who was declared ineligible after failing a drug test.
His top linebacker responsibilities have been taken up by Antjuan Simmons, the former Ann Arbor Pioneer. Simmons is a wrecking crew who has 12 tackles for loss and an interception. He is the leading active tackler.
The place this Spartan roster shines is the defensive line. Kenny Willekes, a former walk-on, has really shined for the Spartans. He gets double-teamed often and still has nine tackles for loss to go with his 14 quarterback hurries.
Elsewhere, the Panasiuk brothers each bring their own force. Mike has seven and a half tackles for loss while Jacob has six and a half. Raequon Williams joins the crew with five and a half to round out a strong defensive front.
The cornerback tandem of Josiah Scott and Josh Butler is a good one. Scott, with five passes broken up, is expected to play against the Wolverines after returning from injury. He leads the Spartans with two interceptions.
Safety David Dowell patrols the secondary as well.
Matt Coughlin is 13-20 on field goal attempts this year. He is 8-of-10 from inside of 40 and 5-of-10 from beyond.
Michigan-Michigan State Football TV Channel, Time and Live Stream
Kickoff Time: 12:00PM ET
Date: Saturday, November 16
Location: The Big House, Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor)
TV Channel: FOX
Live Stream: FoxSportsGo
Michigan-Michigan State Odds
Spread: -13.5 (Michigan)
The Pick: Michigan -13.5
Moneyline: Michigan State (+428) | Michigan (-595)
The Pick: Over